Nady for Cameron – Part 3

This may come as a shock to those who know me, because I am one of the biggest Xavier Nady supporters around, but I actually like this deal for the Padres. My first choice would have been to give Nady a shot to play everyday, but it was pretty apparent to folks who watched the club last year that getting him in the lineup wasn’t exactly a priority. Given that fact, flipping him for a part that Bruce Bochy presumably will find a way to use made perfect sense.

In Mike Cameron, the Padres get their first legitimate center fielder since Mark Kotsay was shipped to Oakland following the 2003 season. Cameron had been courted by the Padres following Kotsay’s departure but preferred to play on the East Coast, forcing the Friars to settle for Jay Payton. Neither Payton nor his successor, Dave Roberts, was particularly well suited to play center field in Petco Park’s spacious outfield.

Cameron has posted an OPS+ of 104 or more each of the past 7 seasons. His high during that period is 124 (he hit .267/.353/.480 for Seattle in 2001), so he isn’t great but he’s consistently above average. Cameron strikes out a ton but draws his share of walks. He also has good power for center field, knocking 25+ homers on three separate occasions and sporting a career ISO of .193 (that’s a tick below guys like Mike Sweeney and Miguel Tejada).

Cameron’s list of comparable players through age 32 is solid but not great. His most comparable player, former Padre Ruppert Jones, was finished at that age. Darrell Evans went on to hit 230 more home runs. Others such as Dave Henderson, Ron Gant, and Howard Johnson had varying degrees of success.

Bottom line? The Padres appeared reluctant to use Nady in an everyday capacity. He’s still only 27 years old, so it’s too early to give up and relegate him to a utility role. Hopefully he’ll get a shot in New York to show what he can do. Personally, I’d love to see him go Jason Bay on the world because, well, I’ve been following Nady for a long time and want him to do well. But even if he doesn’t end up being the player I think he can be, I hope he at least gets the opportunity he deserves and couldn’t seem to get in San Diego.

On the flip side, if Cameron is healthy, he helps cover the gaps at Petco Park and gives the Padres a fairly proven right-handed power option. Yeah, he adds a lot to the payroll, but I have to believe the Padres see the writing on the wall with Brian Giles and are prepared to let him walk in a year where the weak free agent crop tips the scales against teams that aren’t willing to shell out big bucks for less than top shelf talent, let alone someone like Giles.

I think the deal is pretty even talentwise in the short run, with Cameron filling a greater need for the Padres than Nady would have. Factor in that the Padres apparently weren’t willing to use Nady, and I’m okay with this. I look forward to seeing what a legitimate center fielder (no offense to Roberts, who was a pleasant surprise to me this season but who really is a fourth outfielder) can do at Petco Park, and I’ll continue to root for Nady in a Mets uniform.

Except, of course, when he plays the Padres. ;-)